You need to be judgmental about your images. Why? Judging your photos achieves two goals. It sets up a practical workflow for later, so you know right away which shots you want to share with others and which ones need work in an image editor before being ready to be made public (and which should be deleted or hidden). Judging also helps you become a better photographer, because it helps you look at your shots critically to determine what you’re doing right or wrong, and in what areas you excel or need to improve. In this chapter, I offer a system for judging and flagging your photos to make them most useful in your library. I also discuss what to do with the shots that don’t make the cut.
Moving photos from a camera or memory card to the computer seems like mere transportation: bits captured and stored in one location are copied and saved to a new location. But your computer can do more than just shuttle files from one location to another. By taking advantage of software’s capability to assign metadata during the import stage, much of the drudgery of organizing photos is handled upfront with minimal interaction required by you.
Although it’s possible to dump photos into a folder and call that “organization,” I don’t recommend doing so. My photo-management strategy relies on software to organize images and apply essential metadata. The time you save when tagging and searching for images justifies the price of a good photo-management program. But which one? I’d love to say, “Go get this one program and you’ll be set,” but that’s not realistic. The good news is that there are several interesting options for managing photos. Because it’s impractical for me to list every program out there, I focus on the features that I consider most essential for managing your photo collection and the specific programs that meet these criteria.
It’s easy to think that taking control of digital photos begins when you import the images into your computer, but the truth is that the process starts before you capture your first shot. For example, time stamps are the foundation of photo-management software, making it essential that your camera records the correct time. It is possible to fix errant time stamps later, but doing so throws a roadblock into your workflow. (And if enough roadblocks appear, you may decide to turn around and abandon the endeavor altogether.) The advice in this chapter isn’t complicated, but it goes a long way toward ensuring the photos you shoot will be cleanly imported.
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